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Rotolight launches SmartSoft Box, an electronically-controlled variable diffuser softbox

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Rotolight has announced a diffuser attachment for its AEOS 2 LED lights that allows users to vary the degree of diffusion produced by controlling an electric current passing across its surface. The SmartSoft Box diffuser uses Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystals sandwiched between two conductive plastic transparent electrode layers on its front panel to alter the translucence of the glass from completely clear and see-through to heavily frosted.

Rod Gammons Snr, founder of Rotolight tells us ‘In its basic state, the PDLC contain liquid crystals are in a chaotic configuration, and that looks opaque or ‘diffused’. You may have seen some primitive PDLC windows on posh apartment blocks that can switch between being opaque/diffused or clear, but nothing in between. All they can do is switch between these two states. Our R&D team spent 2 1/2 years developing a way of controlling the transition between clear and diffused to allow the SmartSoft system to work.’

Gammons continues, ‘This unique material has a special character, created because the crystals are of random length. As we excite them electronically they become polarised/aligned and therefore transparent. On a standard polyester diffuser gel, the diffuser material is fairly homogenous and will scatter the light in a very predictable way, but the great thing with SmartSoft is that the light is both ‘scattered AND dispersed’. This means that some light will travel more or less straight through the Smartsoft, whilst other light will collide with longer, less polarised crystals and that will be scattered in a different way. This gives the SmartSoft diffuser a unique character that has some very soft dispered light, mixed with some direct ‘detail’ light, making it perfect for portraiture. You can simultaneously achieve a soft Beauty light, with some crisp skin detail which is really interesting.’

Users can dial-in the degree of diffusion required using the main body controls of the AEOS 2 LED light, and can pick between 100 increments between the two extremes.

The SmartSoft Box fits over the body of the AEOS 2 light in the same way that the current dome diffuser does. It is powered by plugging in to the main body

The company has used this technology before in its Titan series of studio lights, the latest models of which have the system built-in, but this is the first time it has been available as a detachable unit. The SmartSoft Box unit fits over the face of the AEOS 2 light, just like the regular diffuser dome, and a cable plugs into the body to take power from the main light. A rear dial or the touch-screen slider can then be used to select the amount of diffusion produced. The degree of diffusion will also be controllable using the Rotolight iOS and Android app from the 1st June.

In its default state the layer on the front panel of the SmartSoft Box is heavily diffused and the LEDs are almost hiddenOnce a current is passed through the layer it clears, allowing the light from the LED’s to pass almost unhindered

In its natural state the layer used for the SmartSoft Box diffuser is fully translucent and only becomes clear as the electric current is passed through it. In its ‘100%’ state the attachment provides 1.5 stops of diffusion and hides the individual LEDs of the AEOS 2 array, and when it is clear almost no light is lost. The diffusion also increases the spread of the light allowing it cover a wider area.

Gammons also tells us that the AEOS 2 will automatically shift its color balance as the diffusion varies to ensure that the resultant light remains a constant color rendering all the time.

At the same time Rotolight has also introduced a new series of parabolic softboxes built around an umbrella design that allows them to be set-up and taken down very quickly. The R90 and R120 models measure 90cm/35.4in and 120cm/47.2in across the front round face respectively, and come with 1-stop outer and 0.5-stop inner layers of diffuser as well as a fabric 40° honeycomb grid and a carry bag. As such they can be used as softboxes or umbrellas, depending on the look required. They are fitted with a Bowens S mount but can be used with a Rotolight Bowens/Elinchrome adapter to mount the company’s AEOS and NEO lights, or any LED light panel with a 1.4in 20 thread, inside the modifier. Both softboxes also have access panels in their sides so that lights mounted inside the softbox can be controlled by hand without having to remove the front diffuser panel.

The Rotolight SmartSoft Box will ship from August and will cost $499/£439, and is compatible only with the AEOS 2 light. The parabolic softboxes will cost $269/£249.99 and $299/£289.99 and are expected to ship in July. For more information see the Rotolight website.

Thanks to Island Photo Centre for assisting with the demonstration.

Press release

ROTOLIGHT DEBUTS THE WORLD’S FIRST ELECTRONIC SMARTSOFT™ BOX & NATIVE APP

British LED lighting manufacturer, Rotolight has unveiled the world’s first electronic ‘SmartSoft™ Box’, for its award-winning AEOS 2 lights, along with a brand new native iOS & Android App.

Since being announced during Rotolight’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaign for the award-winning NEO 3 and AEOS 2, the Rotolight SmartSoft™ Box has proved to be one of the most highly anticipated products of the year. Now, the wait is finally over for the world’s first intelligent electronic softbox.

Delivering a genuine revolution in lighting control, the Rotolight SmartSoft™ Box has been developed to save photographers and filmmakers both time and money, allowing users to electronically adjust diffusion, focus and spread without the need for gels or additional modifiers. Like a LEE 216 on an adjustable dial, SmartSoft™ provides 1.5 stops of electronically variable diffusion thanks to Rotolight’s patented technology, providing the flexibility of a soft output and a harder light source all in one.

SmartSoft™ was first debuted in Rotolight’s award-winning Titan Cinematic range, built natively into its Titan X2 and X1 fixtures, which have been used on countless feature films and TV shows by Netflix, Amazon Studios and SKY including BAFTA longlisted “The Colour Room” and “Greys Anatomy”. For the first time, this technology has now been adapted into a removable electronic softbox for its recently launched AEOS 2 fixtures, which weigh just 1.4kg (3lbs), making them the world’s thinnest, lightest 1×1 style lights in the market.

“Rotolight is delighted to announce the worlds first electronic SmartSoft™ box; a revolution in lighting control that saves time & money for photographers and filmmakers. Rotolight has proven that it is, yet again, at the cutting edge of patent-protected industry-first technologies in the lighting industry, providing our customers with unique state-of-the-art tools that enhance creative possibilities on set” Rod Aaron Gammons, CEO, Rotolight.

With the all-new native Rotolight iOS and Android app, you’re always in control. It has never been simpler to switch between lighting modes, remotely adjust colour, power, SFX and much more. The new app allows the user to create custom groups and projects on up to 20 lights simultaneously; right from the palm of your hand.

Pricing and availability

Rotolight SmartSoft™ Box is available for pre-order now from www.rotolight.com, shipping August 2022 along with all official Rotolight resellers priced at $499, £439.

The Rotolight Native iOS & Android App version 1.0 will be available for all Rotolight users on 1st June and free to download from the Apple Store and Google Play Store


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